keywords — For the life of me I can’t understand how keywords work. Can anyone lead me to an explanation of this? How is it used, both creatively and practically. If, for instance, I want to see all the quotes from character Alice, is this possible if I keyword her, and if so, how do I do it. I hate ignorance … and that I have so much of it.

Keywords are one of several forms of meta-data that you can use to characterize the documents in your Scrivener project. If you only have one document in your draft folder they’re not very useful, but if you have twenty they may be so. (You can also apply keywords to research documents which can be very useful.) Keywords cannot be used to identify portions of text or characters. They only apply to documents.

Take a look at the Meta-Data and Windows & Panels sections of the Scrivener Help for further explanations of how to use them. You might also look at Help/Getting Started/Searching for ways to find related segments of your text.


Thank you for your suggestion, which I acted on, but remained confused. I understand a search, I just don’t get where keywords fit in. For instance, if I identify a keyword as ‘Alice’ what is that going to get me that searching ‘Alice’ won’t?

The main idea of keywords is that you can use them to apply, e.g., the names of themes to documents, or locations or characters that are involved with documents but aren’t explicitly mentioned in the text. It’s up to you how you use them, really - you might use them for anything for which you can’t use label or status. You might not use them at all.

Just one more question, honest. SO if I have a doc where Alice isn’t mentioned and I want to keyword it with Alice (because it’s somehow relevant) how do I add the keyword to the doc? If I drag it in, it shows up as ‘Alice’, so why don’t I just type it. Sorry.

You can add a keyword to a document by viewing the Inspector and then viewing the Keyword pane (the little key at the bottom). Then you click the + button to add the keyword. If you’ve already defined the keyword, you can open the Keywords HUD (Window menu) and drag them from there to a document’s keyword list, the document name in the binder, or if you’re looking at a document the title bar just above your text.

Here’s how you might use keywords. You’ve got a few chapters done. There’s a character, Annie. You do research and find a bunch of different pictures of Annie-like persons and houses that Annie might live in. You drag these into the research folder and then add Annie’s name to their keywords. Now when you search for Annie you see a list of the chapters where she’s mentioned, pictures of what she might look like, and where she lives.

Hope that helps.


Ah, I see your confusion. In the inspector, click the button with the image of the key on it at the bottom. This will swap the notes pane for the keywords pane. You drag your keywords in there, or you type them manually. That way you can search for them without them having to be mentioned in the document. If you haven’t already, you may find it very helpful to go through the tutorial provided with Scrivener, which covers this. :slight_smile:
All the best,

Thanks for your help on this. I’ve finally thought it through and got it. It’s the file, stupid.

Here’s an example of one of the ways in which I use keywords:

The book I’m working on has a series of chapters each discussing a different underlying principle of my main thesis. In order to bring the reader into the material, I like to use stories, anecdotes, puzzles, jokes – whatever – to illustrate the principles. In my research I’ve collected a whole bunch of these, ranging from personal and business stories, to scientific discoveries, to movie plots to folk tales. As I review these source documents, I assign one or more keywords to each.

A given anecdote might have the following keywords: “unexpected connection”, “third third”, “stay in the question” (in practice I would actually abbreviate these). Now when I’m looking for illustrations for the chapter on the third third, I simply pull down the keyword HUD, select “third third” and voila all the docs I’ve keyworded with “third third” are there for me.

Hope this helps,


It does, thanks very much.

Ok, I’m a newbie with Scrivener.

I’m wondering if there’s a way to import Keywords into Scrivener. For example, I use EndNote and have a pretty substantial list of keywords there for the fifteen hundred references in my bibliography. If I could import my keywords into Scrivener, it would make my start-up a lot smoother.